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Green Landscaping: Greenacres
Wild Ones Handbook
THE LANDSCAPE THAT WAS, IS, WILL BE
- Prairie Plants Evolved To A Harsh Climate
- Forest Cathedrals
- The Influence of Effluence: Wetter Is Better
- Today's Lawns
- The English Burgher Lawn Aesthetic
- Can Lawns Kill?
- On The Edge of A Sustainable Landscape
"My husband and I feel so privileged to own and observe
this special little corner of the world, even though we realize
it is actually our for just a fleeting moment in time."
On The Edge of A Sustainable Landscape
by Darrel Morrison, ASLA
As we sit on the threshold of a new century, it is essential our landscapes take on a new meaning. Designed and managed landscapes need to demonstrate an environmental consciousness and a shift in values. A part of the beauty of a landscape in the 21st century will be derived from its resource consciousness, its productivity, its sustainability.
These thoughts are stimulated, in part, by a February 1990 prediction by the Worldwatch Institute. This Washington think-tank predicted (optimistically, maybe) that the world will become 'self-sustainable' by the year 2030; i.e., that society will see that basic human needs are met without depleting or further polluting the Earth's resources. The Institute acknowledges that in order for its prediction to become reality, a new set of values will need to be adopted, with one difficult component being a shift away from materialism and conspicuous consumption.
In the Institute's hopeful scenario, today's throw-away society will be replaced by one with a comprehensive recycling ethic. In the sustainable world, people will rely much less on automobiles and will live closer to their work in mixed-use neighborhoods, or work at home with the assistance of technology. This will be a world where neighborliness and sociability can be revived, with people walking or biking to schools, shops, and offices, perhaps along streets where houses have front porches. Small towns will experience their own revival. Historic buildings will be preserved, restored and reused.
And what will a sustainable landscape be like in the year 2030? The Worldwatch Institute doesn't propose a scenario for this, so I will:
- Expansive, resource-consuming lawns will be unfashionable, obsolete symbols of overconsumption and pretense.
- Where there is a need or an urge for large, open lawn-like areas these will be pastures in which cattle and sheep graze on native, drought-tolerant grasses, returning nutrients to the soil.
- Other fields will be set aside with rows of solar collection panels harvesting sunlight for power. In the space between the solar collectors will be soil-rebuilding grasses intermingled with colorful drifts of native flowers.
- On the shoulders of roads, hiking and biking trails, and in small openings on residential and industrial sites will be infrequently mown short meadows.
- Food-producing landscapes will have a resurgence, providing more food close to home and reducing the need for long-haul transportation of fruits and vegetables, which will be picked when ripe and eaten in season.
- In the same vein, beautiful vegetable and herb gardens, as well as grape arbors and mini-orchards of dwarf fruit trees will be integrated into home grounds.
- Ornamental plantings will also include a large component of time-proven native shrubs and trees, flowers, ferns and grasses, providing seasonal changes and links with our natural history without the need for irrigation or fertilizer.
- A network of forests and other natural areas will be preserved and protected, in various stages of succession. With management to maintain their natural diversity and beauty, various-sized patches and corridors will be protected and managed, and they will in turn protect the quality of water in streams and rivers and will help counteract global warming trends.
- At the edges of the forests, and along fence rows between solar collection fields, pastures and orchards, there will be a network of consciously managed edge plantings: clumps of Blackberries, native Plums, Wild Roses, Sumac, and Red Cedar -- productive of food and habitat for many species of birds and mammals.
Whether we reach the goal of sustainability is dependent on our activities. We won't get there by maintaining a business-as-usual attitude. We won't get there if we permit the perpetuation of an image that sustainable, productive landscapes are anti-design, or that they can never really be as beautiful as today's irrigated, herbicided, chemically fertilized, and mowed landscapes.
We may help achieve the goal of sustainable landscapes -- and public demand for them -- by demonstrating that they can possess a new level of beauty derived from the richness of their lines, forms, colors, and textures, from their regional associations, and from their very productivity and sustainability.